Why the Brahms Ballads just now? Out of love for Hamburg?
I thought about what I could play today, and the four Brahms Ballads came to mind. Ballad no. 4 in particular is highly reminiscent of Hamburg: the drizzle, the water, the grey sky. And the first piece in the set is fairly gloomy, too. After the Ballads I played an Arabeske by Schumann, a work that always fills me with a lovely feeling of lightness.
Johannes Brahms: Vier Balladen op. 10 (1854)
Nr. 1 d-moll: Andante – Allegro
Nr. 2 D-Dur: Andante – Allegro non troppo
Nr. 3 h-moll: Intermezzo: Allegro
Nr. 4 H-Dur: Andante con moto
Robert Schumann: Arabeske op. 18 (1839)
What was it like for you to play to an empty house? Do you imagine that there is an audience listening to you, or does it feel more like a rehearsal before the actual recital?
Neither one nor the other. It's a very special feeling to play here in an empty concert hall. I think a lot about how other people are doing – in Italy and Spain, for example, where music is probably the last thing some people need at the moment. But for others, this is a time that offers the chance to reflect and find inner calm. And I felt this sense of inner calm today here in the Grand Hall – a very special calm that you don't normally experience here: the auditorium is normally filled with the audience and the orchestra, so there is always movement and activity. I tried to convey to the virtual audience this sense of calm and peace that I felt here today, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to play under such special circumstances.
Anna Vinnitskaya spielt Brahms und Schumann
Do you miss your students at the College of Music? Do you stay in touch with them and teach them from home using Skype or WhatsApp?
At the moment we are still on spring break, and the start of the summer semester has been postponed until 20 April. I very much hope that my students are all in the best of health, and that we can resume teaching at the end of April. Otherwise we'll have to come out with some spontaneous solutions – I could imagine teaching by video, for instance.
How do you spend your time in this compulsory break from playing and teaching?
To be quite honest, I'm enjoying this special time at home here in Hamburg together with my children. Finally I have the chance to tidy up, sort things out, cook meals and play games with the children. This is completely new to me, and I am actually really grateful for the opportunity to spend time with my family without obligations or appointments.
There was a very special calm in the concert hall that you don't normally experience here: the auditorium is normally filled with the audience and the orchestra, so there is always movement and activity.
»I never asked myself whether I wanted to be a pianist. Presumably it was initially something my parents wanted, but after five, six years, the piano had become a part of life just like eating and breathing.« For Anna Vinnitskaya, that is still true to this day. And by now, the pianist, who was born in Novorossiysk on the shores of the Black Sea in 1983, is one of the great piano stars of our time.
That such a path can sometimes involve hardships was a lesson she had to learn at the age of 18, when she came to Hamburg all by herself to study music. She now teaches at the Hochschule für Musik herself, sharing her passion and knowledge with students from around the world.
The programme of her 30-minute recital opens with the Four Ballads op. 10 by Johannes Brahms. The composer, a gifted pianist himself, wrote them in the summer of 1854 aged only 21. Like many of his early works, these pieces were inspired by poems and vocal music, but in equal measure by the demonic stories of E. T. A. Hoffmann. And needless to say, all four Ballads are highly Romantic in flavour.
Brahms was close friends with Robert Schumann and his wife Frau Clara. Schumann, who was 23 years older than Brahms, wrote his delicate Arabeske in Vienna in 1839. The composer himself declared that he wanted to become »the favourite composer of all Viennese ladies«, and thus made the piece »delicate and vulnerable« in style. His plan didn't come off, but he nonetheless wrote a whole number of piano pieces in Vienna that, like the Arabeske, retain a firm place in the repertoire to this day.
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